Writing advice from Andy Weir

One of the heroes of the “choose yourself” independent publishing movement is Andy Weir, author of The Martian, among the most successful self-published novels of the last decade or so. I recently blundered across an excerpt of an interview with Weir that included that immortal question, “What is your advice for new writers trying to make it in today’s publishing world?”

He had three thoughts, and the first and third seem obvious, except perhaps they’re not. The first thought is “to actually write.” If you want to be a success as a writer, you need to write and keep writing until you’re able to write well. Aaron Judge didn’t hit a home run with his first swing. He had to swing and keep swinging until he was able to hit a baseball with power. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.”

Weir’s third thought is that “This is the best time in history to self-publish.” The barriers and most of the stigma have been removed. If you just finished your book, you can publish the ebook in less than a half-hour and have it on sale tonight. I’d make sure it’s polished first, but the technology is available if you’re in that much of a hurry.

The middle thought is what caught my eye: “Resist the urge to tell friends and family your story.” It’s such a good story that you want to share it along the way, but sharing “satisfies your need for an audience, which diminishes your motivation to actually write it.”

I know that feeling. I’ve leaked out a detail or two about an ongoing project to friends from time to time, and “leak” turns out to be a good word to describe it: It feels like the story is a balloon or a tire, and if it leaks, some of the pressure to tell it is lost. Sometimes, even when the person says, “Wow! I can’t wait to read that,” the balloon deflates completely.

Weir’s advice is basically, when someone asks you what you’re writing, just smile and say, “You’ll find out,” or some such. Say anything, but don’t explain what you’re writing. 

And write. That’s always the best practice for anyone who wants to be a writer. It may take a long time to reach the point where your writing is “worthy,” although that’s subjective anyway. The only way to reach that point is to actually write. So write, gorram it. It ain’t rocket science — although, as Andy Weir demonstrates, it can be.

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